Head Cases

updated 07/26/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/26/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

IN A TINY HOLLYWOOD DELI, TWO ACTORS are shooting a scene for this summer's funniest movie about beings from the planet Remulak. On one side of a table is Chris Farley, 29, the wild-eyed, perspiration-flecked, aggressively unsvelte regular on Saturday Night Live. And he's the normal-looking one. Across from Farley sits Michelle Burke, 21, wearing Doc Martens, jeans and, on her head, a nine-inch latex cone. "You know," says Farley, looking deep into her eyes, "I've never dated a girl who was taller than me before." Burke, as Connie Conehead, smiles back lovingly—and, more to the point, manages to keep a straight face. Cut! Print! Great! Just a couple of hours before, things had not gone so swimmingly. "I was sitting near the camera," says Burke. "And I was laughing so hard that I was making it shake."

Yes, now it can be revealed: Despite the meaningful romantic dialogue, Coneheads, which opens July 23, is a comedy. Not that making the movie—an extension of the old SNL sketches about pointy-headed aliens leading middle-class lives—was all chuckles and mirth. Two weeks before the film wrapped last April, Dan Aykroyd, reprising his role as Beldar, reportedly lost his Conehead cool and wound up ransacking the guard station on the Paramount lot after one of his assistants was reprimanded by security.

Yet for the most part the movie—which reunites SNL originals Aykroyd, 41, Jane Curtin (as his wife, Prymaat), 45, and Laraine Newman (creating a new role as Curtin's sister Laarta), 41—was about as much fun as a body can have hanging around L.A. and environs for 11 weeks and speaking in a Remulakian monotone about "parental units." (The plot revolves around teenage Connie falling in love with earthling—okay, he's from New Jersey—auto mechanic Farley and meeting Beldar's stern disapproval.) Says Aykroyd, who in recent years has concentrated on dramatic roles, earning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination in 1989's Driving Miss Daisy: "It fell good to be Beldar again."

As it so often does in life, happiness on the set came down to the fit of one's head cone. The devices did take two hours to put on each day—yet, says Curtin, the custom-fit movie cones were "a lot better and more comfortable" than the off-the-shelf numbers she wore on SNL. Moreover, she says, because the cone shielded her head from sun and wind, "my hair is probably in the best condition it's ever been." Aykroyd felt so at home in his cone that he kept it on as he walked around a shopping mall. Did he draw crowds? Yup. Did lie care? No—because Coneheads never notice that they're diff...er, cranially challenged. "The great thing about working with Dan and Jane," says director Steve Barron, "is that they know their characters so well."

It's a good thing somebody did. The 37-year-old Barron (director of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), who grew up in England, had "no clear memory" of the Coneheads, he says, and thus felt compelled to watch hours of old tapes before shooting began. Of course, Aykroyd was always there to help. On the first day of rehearsal, in fact, the actor walked up to him and proceeded to eat four miniature Eggo waffles in rapid succession. What was that all about? "Consume mass quantities," explained Aykroyd, summoning his best Remulakian accent. Hey, that's the first rule for being a Conehead—and what does he look like, a dunce?

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